The Football League introduced play-offs to English football in 1987 but it wasn’t until 1990 that the Final became a one-off match at Wembley. Over the years there have been some classic play-off Finals and, with Watford and Crystal Palace battling for a place in the Premier League on Monday, here are our six best Wembley Championship, and First Division, play-off showdowns...
6. Leicester City 2-1 Crystal Palace, 1996
Crystal Palace led through an early Andy Roberts goal but the Foxes equalised with 15 minutes to go through a Garry Parker penalty. The game headed into extra-time and with penalties looming, Leicester brought on penalty-saving specialist ‘keeper Zeljko Kalac. He wasn’t needed though as Steve Claridge volleyed home from the edge of the Eagles' box to score a 120th minute winner.
5. Swansea City 4-2 Reading, 2011
Leading 3-0 at half time through a Scott Sinclair brace and a Steven Dobbie strike, Swansea looked like they were cruising to promotion. However the Royals made a real game of it in the second half after a Joe Allen own goal and a Matt Mills header. Reading almost equalised when Jem Karacan's shot deflected onto the post but the Swans sealed victory when Sinclair completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot.
4. Blackpool 3-2 Cardiff City, 2010
In an amazing first half Blackpool twice came from behind through Charlie Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, before Brett Ormerod put the Tangerines in front in stoppage time. Cardiff’s Michael Chopra came close to equalising in the second half after hitting the woodwork but Blackpool saw the game out and sealed their return to the top flight of English football for the first time since 1971.
3. Bolton Wanderers 4-3 Reading, 1995
Reading led 2-0 at half time, despite missing a penalty but Bolton’s Owen Coyle and substitute Fabian de Freitas levelled matters in the second half. In extra-time, the Trotters continued their momentum with Paatelainan and de Freitas adding two more. Reading’s Jimmy Quinn made it a nervy finish for Bolton, but they hung on to clinch promotion.
2. Swindon Town 4-3 Leicester City, 1993
Swindon led 3-0 after 53 minutes after goals from player-manager Glenn Hoddle, Craig Maskell and Shaun Taylor. However, Leicester produced a brilliant comeback through goals from Julian Joachim, Steve Walsh and Steve Thompson. Just as extra-time looked inevitable Swindon were awarded a penalty and Paul Bodin kept his composure to claim victory for his side.
1. Charlton 4-4 Sunderland (Charlton win 7-6 on penalties), 1998
Clive Mendonca opened the scoring for the Addicks, but that was overturned after half time thanks to goals from Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn. Mendonca scored again, but an immediate response from Quinn looked like it would send Sunderland to victory. However, Richard Rufus scored with five minutes to go and the game entered extra-time. Nicky Summerbee put Sunderland back in the lead for the third time before Mendonca completed his hat-trick. The shootout saw both teams convert every single penalty until Sasa Ilic saved Michael Gray's spot kick to put the Addicks into the Premier League.